Saudi Arabia's foreign minister says Iran’s hostile policy is the major obstacle to solving the crisis in Yemen, where Riyadh is leading a military alliance against Iran-aligned Houthi militant forces.
Adel al-Jubeir accused Iran of interfering in Yemen and providing arms to the Shi’ite Houthi rebels.
“Iran provides weapons to Houthi and [supporters of former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah] Saleh,” al-Jubeir said Sunday at the opening of a conference of foreign ministers and chiefs of staff of Muslim counterterrorism coalition countries, which is led by Saudi Arabia. “[Iran] also destroys efforts to resolve the conflict in Yemen which has led to the failure of negotiations between the legitimate government [of Yemen] and the militias.”
Al-Jubeir accused the Houthi forces of causing hunger and poverty in Yemen and depriving more than four million children of education.
Yemen has been engulfed in civil war for the past four years. The country descended into chaos after the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels swept into the capital Sana’a and overthrew President Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi's Saudi-backed government in September 2014.
Since March 2015, Saudi Arabia has been leading a military campaign in support of Hadi's government against the Houthi forces that are now allied with former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was ousted in the 2011 Arab Spring uprising.
The Houthis have been dislodged from most of the south, but remain in control of Sanaa and much of the north.
The Houthi forces have also repeatedly targeted Saudi territory with missiles. Their leader, Abdel-Malek al-Houthi, last month threatened that missiles available to his forces could target Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, which is a key member of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.
More than 10,000 people have been killed in ground battles and airstrikes, many of them civilians. A recent U.N. report has blamed Houthi forces and the Saudi-led coalition for civilian deaths, including the “killing and maiming” of hundreds of children, and destroying schools and hospitals.
The Houthis have also been accused of recruiting hundreds of children “as fighters, porters or checkpoint guards.”
The United Nations says it has been working to find "a comprehensive solution" and encourage the warring parties to commit to a peace deal. Previous peace initiatives have failed to end the war in the country.
Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the U.N. special envoy for Yemen, earlier this month accused the country's warring leaders of refusing to end the fighting and warned that “the situation will continue to worsen as well as the terrorist threat" if the parties do not listen to the people and display flexibility.
In addition to the civil war, impoverished Yemen has been gripped by an al-Qaida insurgency as well.
Al-Qaida’s branch in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which emerged in Yemen in early 2009, has claimed responsibility for a number of terrorist attacks against Yemen's army and government institutions.
The United States and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries last week imposed sanctions against several individuals and entities accused of supporting the Islamic State and al-Qaida in Yemen.